Monday, July 19, 2010

TransALPs stage 3: Crossing to Switzerland. Ischgl, Austria to Scuol, Switzerland

Drew thought I might get to bed early with him tonight, but I just can't pass up free internet when I don't know when the connection will work again, and I wanted to share the day's happenings while they are fresh in my mind. It has been a great day, and here are some pictures.

Ischgl, Austria is a ski town, and they have tried to stretch the seasons to summer by catering to hikers and mountain bikers.  As such, the tram is running most of the day and trail maps and bike rentals are easy to come by.  I started Day 3 not by cheering our guys on at the start, but by attemping to capitalize on the mountain bike environment.  I rolled out well ahead of the racers but followed the trail signage for the race up, up, up the ski slopes.  The route, as Drew said, was straight up the ski area roads, both gravel and paved.  It was steep, but not unridable, and I had an excellent climb.  Even with a 38 minute lead, the lead racers caught me on the climb.  I rode 1 hr 42 minutes to their 1 hr 1 minute.  They're pretty quick!  I pulled off and watched racers go by, waiting for Drew and David, and had a bit of time to hunt for interesting ultrabasic rocks. I eventually started down the same way I came and shortly came across them, in high spirits and feeling good. It was great to know they were riding well today.

From there, I high-tailed it down, met Tracey, who had taken the tram up the mountain to have a look around and see if she could catch the guys, checked out of Hotel Yscla, and after a quick stop at the grocery store

we were on the road in search of Switzerland.  The winding roads were exciting, especially when intersecting the racers on the highway for a good 7 kilometers.  We finally made it to Scuol, a good half hour after the guys finished.  Not to worry, they had pasta and meat on a stick at the race finish line, so they were content for the moment. 

We noticed that now that we were in Switzerland, the architecture and style of ornamentation and decoration on the buildings and gardens became less Bavarian. 

We gathered them up and drove WAY up above the main center of Scuol to Scuol-Ftan, 4 km away and about 2000 feet higher. We checked into my favorite hotel of the trip so far: Hotel Engiadina.  It has a balcony, a Euro-style bathroom, and fabulous views all around.  Just being up here in this quiet and stunningly beautiful town is heavenly. 

After a quick walk around town to take some pictures,

we had the best meal I've had in a very long time here at our hotel on the patio.

There was pizzoccheri, a kind of pasta made locally with mostly buckwheat flour; a kind of gnocchi or something also made locally; refreshing beer;

and delicious desserts. We had flan, and Tracey had a sweetened chestnut meal shaped like pasta.

A quick stroll around town where we saw a pile of real authentic cobblestones ready to be laid

and watched the sunset on the mountains

and we're out for the night to rest for our crossing to Italy tomorrow.

Post note: After our return to the States, I was catching up on some reading of periodicals for work and ran across an article in the August issue of Earth magazine highlighting a worthwhile geologic trip.  Wouldn't you know, the article was on the lower Engadine Valley and Scuol.  Talk about bad timing! I had done a little reading about the geology of the Alps before this trip, but the sources I found were not place specific enough.  Here was an article talking about what to do and see from a geologist's and outdoor enthusiast's perspective.  We could have used that. The article said the rocks visible high in the mountains are from the African tectonic, which have been thrust over rocks in the bottom of the valley from the Eurasian plate.  That is a long distance. It also talked about an anticline that traps water and forces it to natural geothermal springs, which have been developed into the valley's famous public baths.  The guys really could have used that!  The valley is a result of a strike slip fault that allows water to more easily erode rocks in the fault zone.


  1. Cool pictures you two - thanks for sharing with the rest of us who are living through you vicariously.


  2. Go Supersonic Turtles! What a great travel journal you are posting. I love the photos & descriptions of your adventures :) Our biggest excitement here is adopting a homeless mama cat & kittens! Enjoy your journey & keep the pics & hotel names coming... we may have to make our own reservations one day & it'll be good to know where to go!